MarieAnn C. Raguso
Love is a passenger ship capsizing
pushing you downwards and even
further away from the sight of shore,
waves consuming the whole vessel
until even the bodies aboard sink.
MarieAnn C. Raguso
It’s cautiously trudging through the dewy, lichen
riddled rocks in funeral shrouds of fog covered
woodlands knowing the enemy is closing in – only
an ominous light of realization bounds towards you,
they have been upon you since before
there was before times, with no wilderness
to borrow to shield you away from
those impending sparks of fiery words
spewed out like ammunition – de de de de
decimating safety nets, and opening
old wounds of self-loathing and deep lies.
American Humans are demanding of the Earth: Human Exemptionalism Paradigm
MarieAnn C. Raguso
“Nature is in fact a backdrop or a stage set for the enactment of key cultural fantasies about ‘freedom’ and ‘domination’ and ‘individualism’” (Čapek 2015:19).
The HEP (Human Exemptionalism Paradigm) is a sub-discipline of Environmental Sociology. HEP is the ethnocentric-based concept that humans and culture are considered exempt from all environmental responsibilities, such as those related to nonhumans and nature (Barbosa 2015:32). This concept also instills that culture, technology, language and social organizations are social constructs developed by humans in order to further their advancements in disregard to nature and other animals, that are typically nonhuman.
Humans are heavily influenced by their external environment, that of which is natural, not necessarily biological to human society. This coincides with what is natural to the human body itself. The HEP concept reinforces the belief that the Earth produces natural resources that humans utilize, however the Earth is viewed as an object rather than a living thing, which makes it material. “…our current problems are trivial, or that our devastating effects on the earth’s ecosystems should be accepted as inevitable or “natural.” It is rather that we seem unlikely to make much progress in solving these problems if we hold up to ourselves as the mirror of nature a wilderness we ourselves cannot inhabit” (Cronon 1996). This means that if something is “material” it must be able to assist human progress and therefore, does not maintain its own identity. This is what HEP represents.
Think of the United States who claims that it is a Capitalist country. Capitalistic ideas favor the consumers. The consumers favor the products. The products are derived from labor and natural resources. In this frame of mind, if someone is not consuming they are not assisting in the advancement of the human race. Thus, places like the United States are consumption-based societies (Čapek 2015:19).
Allan Schnaiberg developed the “treadmill of production” model. In Schnaiberg’s logic, he describes the demand of ecosystem elements (natural resources) are essential to Capitalism, as they are used for monetary profit, which is thought to “better” human advancement. Capitalism utilizes profits made by reinvesting them into natural resources, like the implementation of production. This “creates an insatiable appetite for natural resources” (Čapek 2015:18). This not only exploits the Earth- it exploits the nonhuman world (such as endangered species or the contamination of water). Think of the “treadmill” as an increasing need for the exchange values. Thus, the more people, the more of a need to tap natural resources.
Society and the individuals within it also rely on the objective ideology of Earth through the management of wildlife. The management of wildlife has a heavy impact on the internal and external environments of humans and nonhumans. Humans and nature are two conflicting sources that lead to a continuum of implosion. The implosion in this case is that natural resources are harvested from the external environmental, thus the external environment eventually implodes into itself (Čapek 2015:23). As a result, new goods are produced for human consumption, however, the environment itself is damaged, in some cases beyond repair. In this case, the privatizing of wildlife management.
The privatizing of wildlife management (Rentería-Valencia 2015:97) is also an example of how Capitalism influences the natural world. For instance, the privatizing of wildlife management could be viewed as a private resort, like the Poconos in Pennsylvania. A resort exploits nature and its “cultural” amenities, like skiing. This coincides with the unconscious thought that nature needs to be “maintained.” In actuality, nature does not require any interference; nature has always managed itself. In building the resort, the management is forcing fauna to vacate the area, while the flora and geology are challenged by change. Rocks are blown up and demolished for easier removal and to make a more desirable land-plot. Flora is move to a new location where is may or may not thrive due to environmental factors like if the soil is fertile or not to support it. Skiing is not natural, however, resort owners caretake- or maintain, the lands they “own” in order to cater to Capitalistic ideologies. However, in support of HEP, humans implement social control not strictly over people, but over their environment as well.
Humans have created a visage for what nature really is. There is a type of entitlement that humans feel over nature, since humans are able to comprehend it. As William Cronon put it, “The autonomy of nonhuman nature seems to me an indispensable corrective to human arrogance” (1996). This arrogance leads to the disadvantage of humans utilizing nature as an object, rather than as a living entity. The Earth produces natural resources which humans require, therefore, humans feel that the sources are for “the taking.” Since nature represents the nonhuman world, humans feel that cultural values take precedence. “Humans who understand the laws of nature could no longer be controlled by them” (Barbosa 2015:31). Think of it this way, when hunting Native tribes tend to use the whole animal, bones for knives, palette for clothing and the meat for eating. Hunters nowadays tend to hunt for “sport,” where the animal’s inners are typically discarded and the head or the body of the animal is taxidermized and placed on a wall.
Social control establishes barriers and it is an excuse to “justify” the means of advancements for the human race. For example, you can only ski in a certain area of a resort, however you may fish another part. Also, take into consideration, what form of transportation is needed for the vacationer to get to a resort. The most common form of transportation for vacationers is by air. I think of the old expression, “If we were meant to fly, God would have given us wings.” These are the same people who would also claim that “flying” is the safest form of travel. It may be the safest form of travel for a human, however jet fuel produces environmentally hazardous chemicals.
Kerosene is a popular chemical found in jet fuel. During a National Park Service Survey, it was concluded, “Kerosene... causes acute toxicity to aquatic life, which in retrospect, poisons drinking water for both humans and nonhumans” (Irwin 1997). Kerosene has been used in lamps since the mid-1800s. It is not only toxic to the environment, but it is toxic to humans. This is a fuel source.
In the HEP concept, deforestation is essential to human progress. In deforestation, timber is used as a fuel source. Let us reflect on the early 1800s. All homes had a cast iron stove or a fireplace for heating the human dwelling. Timber was the most common fuel source during this time. Nowadays, most fireplaces still use timber as a fuel source to either heat a dwelling or even to cook food [around the world]. Humans see timber as a “necessity,” however, it violates the natural order of nature when timber is cut down for human purposes. For each tree cut down, it contributes to deforestation.
One of the biggest issues in regards to deforestation is the endangering of species. There is a shallow ecology (Barbosa 2015:34) that must be acknowledged when looking into the endangerment of species. Humans are more concerned about the “depletion of [natural] resources” and the “usefulness of the Earth” (Barbosa 2015:34), rather than the welfare of nonhumans and the environment in which natural resources are derived from.
Nonhumans are forced from their homes (like squirrels, wolves and bears), forced to assimilate or die in a new habitat. Most die, if not killed in the process of deforestation. Not to mention, there is the expectation that humans have dominion over nonhumans. Going back to the idea of hunting as a “sport” (Rentería-Valencia 2015:97-98). Once killed, the animal’s meat may be wasted, fur may be tossed aside and their head may become a product of taxidermy, hung over a fireplace or in billiard. Granted, this is not always the case. There are people who “live off the land,” and do not fall into the HEP frame-of-mind. However, in the case of trophy-hunting, this is a popular tactic. Hunting for trophies has been around for many centuries in the United States. In some aspects, this is considered a form of wildlife management.
Think of it as a mother’s womb, once the child is out of the womb, it cannot return. The child grows up and eventually, the mother dies. When the mother dies, how does the child return the favor of life-giving? The answer is simple; the child cannot return the favor. The mother can longer have children as she is deceased. Just like natural resources, once tapped many resources cannot be replenished. In this aspect, the mother cannot give birth to another child as she is dead. On top of that, the child cannot give birth to its own mother. For instance, petroleum is a fossil fuel, a natural resource. Once petroleum is tapped and utilized, it is unable to be replenished immediately by the Earth. It takes about 300 million years for the Earth to replenish fossil fuels. Thus, humans feel that without the replenishment of this fuel source they will be unable to societally progress. Yet, few solutions are being employed in the United States. Some homes have solar power, yet, this also requires the use of natural resources to construct, as well as a large mass of land that must be maintained. Humans are utilizing natural resources, but giving nothing back in whole. This is just like the child to its mother, humans are the children and the Earth is their mother.
This goes back to the ideology of Capitalism. Humans demand that the Earth sustain them, without returning the favor. The ideology of the biological consumers, such as the hunters and gatherers, has taught the modern human one thing- that consumption of natural resources is essential to human survival (Barbosa 2015:37, 41).
I would argue humans do not need to tap natural resources that do not have a quick degree of replenishment. For each tree cut down, why not plant two in its place? However, this would defy the HEP. The Human Exemptionalism Paradigm exploits nature and nonhumans as “objects.” In accordance to the HEP, humans are ethnocentric and the Earth literally evolves around them. Foremost, the Earth is there for the “taking.” It’s actually a sickening concept, which is why I chose to write about it.
I am not without fault. I also contribute to the depletion of natural resources. Although, I drive a supposedly “eco-friendly” vehicle. As an animal, a member of the human species, I feel that if I can keep my use of natural resources to a minimal, I am able to take a step into the right direction. Hence, I chose to write about the HEP as it infuriated me. It seemed “natural” to me that I write about something that I feel is important. On that note, I feel that it is important to call humans out on their bluff. Until drastic change appears in world societies, the HEP concept will continue to dominate my beloved planet. And, until we can develop synthetic resources, instead of depleting Earth’s natural resources, the HEP will continue to reign as a dominate ideology.
Barbosa, Luiz C. 2015. “Chapter 2: Theories in Environmental Sociology.” In Twenty Lessons in Environmental Sociology, Gould, Kenneth A., Lewis, Tammy L. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Čapek, Stella M. 2015. “Chapter 1: Social Construction of Nature: Of Computers, Butterflies, Dogs, and Trucks.” In Twenty Lessons in Environmental Sociology, Gould, Kenneth A., Lewis, Tammy L. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Cronon, William. 1996. The Trouble with Wilderness, or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature. Environmental History 1(1):7-55.
Irwin, Roy J. 1997. Environmental Contaminants Encyclopedia: Kerosene Entry. Fort Collins, CO: National Park Service i.a.w. Colorado State University.
Rentería-Valencia, Rodrigo F. 2015. Ethics, Hunting Tales, and the Multispecies Debate: The Entextualization of Nonhuman Narratives. Visual Anthropology Review 31 (1):94-103.
 In other words, HEP emphasizes that humans and culture take priority over nonhumans and nature.
 Capitalism is a flawed system in the United States. It is a portion of three systems, which combines Socialist and Democratic ideologies, thus is not unique to the singular ideology of Capitalism.
 When I say “in support of the HEP concept,” what I really mean is humans think they are better than nonhumans. The agency of culture, that which gives identity to human society, assumes it is more prevalent than the laws of nature.
 Not all modern hunters hunt for “sport.”
 In some places like the United States, for every tree cut down, two are planted in its place.
 The hunting animals for trophies.
 Due to overpopulation of deer and rabbits, or predators that eat local domestic pets, like wolves and alligators.
My First Explorations of Crete
MarieAnn C. Raguso
When my fiancé and I decided to visit the Island of Crete in Greece, we had no idea just how hospitable the island would be to us. We booked our trip and chauffeur services with a tourism-based company for a few weeks. Before we knew it, we were on our way to Crete.
Immediately we became friendly with our hosts, the tourism-based company, Travel Crete. My fiancé and I made friends with its owners Ioannis and his wife, Akrivi. We had hired chauffer services that waited on us hand-and-foot, as well as we did a few walking tours with Akrivi, who was a tour guide. Throughout our few weeks in Crete, I took in every bit of cultural information I could access.
When I asked for the stats on population, I was given these numbers. There are just over 623,000 people who live on Crete. Then there were the numbers of villages and towns across Crete by region. There are four regions to Crete: Heraklion, Chania, Rethymno and Lassithi. Crete has 8 cities and hundreds of villages and towns – though that is a debatable number. In Heraklion and Chania there are approximately 300 villages and towns in each region. In Rethymno there are approximately 250 villages and towns, and in Lassithi there are approximately 100 villages and towns. These numbers I have based on Ioannis’s numbers. I heard different numbers from his brother-in-law George, who I will mention later. But, for all purposes, I will go with Ioannis’s numbers.
I spoke to the owner of Eco Zoo Park, who agreed with Ioannis’s numbers. Not every village is documented on Google Earth. I had to buy a map to get a list of the villages – there are hundreds upon hundreds of villages and towns. It was hard to get my barring at first. But, knowing where I wanted to go and how far away each place was, was important to me.
Throughout my trip, I would learn the island consists of many rivers, lakes, valleys, forests, mountains and gorges. Villages stick to red and white colors as it reflects their reliance of grapes that are red and white in color. Grey unfinished architectural leftovers loom over villages and towns. These were homes that were in the middle of construction, but due to Greece’s Economic Crisis (2010-2018) these homes or businesses were left incomplete.
Something that I noticed from day one was the churches. Every village, town and city have at minimum one church. The church is an important part of the community, and everywhere you go, you will find one; from the mountain tops to a busy street in a valley village. I had never seen anything like it before.
I documented our first trip to Crete in full detail. It became a journal to me. I felt like I was reliving each moment, while writing the moment down. I documented words, cultural niches, food and especially what my fiancé and I saw each day.
Our first day in Crete, Ioannis and Demitra picked us up from the airport. The moment we stepped outside of the Kazantzakis International Airport in Heraklion. I knew I was in a new country because I could breathe. My fiancé agreed. The air was so crisp and clean. Any sinus problem I had disappeared, and that’s the way it stayed for the remainder of the trip.
Ioannis drove. He asked, “Are you hungry?” And of course, after a sixteen hour flight, we were starved. “Yes. Could you suggest a place?” Ioannis smiled and said, “I know where to go.” We had wine and fresh fruit for dessert at Beachcomber Bar Restaurant in Stalida. Beachcomber lived up to its name as it sat directly on the beach. It even had its own lounge chairs on the beach where one could dine if they wished, but we sat at a table on the shoreline. As I gazed out at the crystal-clear water, I fell in love with Crete. It was love at first sight for sure. The sky was a purple hue as the orange sun sat in the distance. Even the white waves crashing, maybe fifty feet away, had a clarity to them.
As he drove us to our hotel, the first thing that stood out were the shrines. These shrines by the sides of the road, and in walking areas, are memento mori for people for died in that vicinity. These shrines can be church-shaped, but are usually a simple wooden or metal box with legs. They are placed at places where someone died. There are shrines on the side of the road, that are not memento mori, instead serve as quick prayer shrines, a substitute for an inability to attend church. For example, if there is no church nearby, praying at a church-shaped shrine is more likely.
Back at the hotel, when it was finally time to use the bathroom, I realized something was completely different. There was a sign that illustrated throwing all trash, to include toilet paper, into the tiny garbage can. All trash is recycled (there are no incineration plants or burning pits allowed). To litter is jail time or a large fine. Imagine, that toilet paper with fecal matter on it is recycled for re-use. It was a minor culture shock that I was not a fan of. The reason for this is due to the fragile sewage system that could be found through the whole of Greece. Pipes easily get clogged, thus to stop the clogging of sewage systems all trash is thrown into recycle bins, even the wades used to wipe your bum. My fiancé’s gripe was about the 2x2 sq. ft shower. It was so small, we had to shower with the curtain open which got everything wet in the bathroom. It couldn’t be helped.
Our first full day in Crete, my fiancé and I walked along the El. Venizelou of Chersonisas and the seafront of Hersonissos. One of the things that I noticed were floral wreaths hanging over most doorways to homes and hotels. Everywhere we walked, we would run into doorways with floral wreaths above or on them. This was to honor the dead. It began on the first of May, floral wreaths are hung over the doors of living places, for families to honor the dead. Until the twenty-fourth of June, the dead were permitted to roam free. On that final day in June, the wreaths are burned in the street and jumped over to bring about good fortune. The wreath ceremonies represent the end of the year for the souls of the dead. For those whose family practice this, the dead are able to move on into the afterlife. Or so it is said.
After we walked around for a while, we found ourselves famished. It was time to eat. So we found a little restaurant on the seaside called Niki’s. It was named after the owner’s grandma, Nicola. The owner, whose nickname was Niki, named after his grandma, Nicolas, was delighted to learn we were from New York. When people think of New York, they never think the state though, everyone assumes we are from the city of Manhattan, Brooklyn or Queens. Which we are not from at all. We are up county people. Either way, we weren’t about to explain the difference to Nicolas. What had attracted him to us was our use of Greek words like “parakalo” (please) and “efkharisto” (thank you).
Just because we tried to learn the language, he rewarded us by giving us five free shots of a Cretan liquor called, raki. I had two shots and my fiancé had three. I couldn’t handle more than that, it was too strong. It had been my first time drinking that year too. Raki is a homemade, clear liquor that is sometimes laced with pomegranates, lemons or even honey. It is made from fermented green olives. And boy howdy, when I think about it, I can feel a warmth in the back of my throat. Every restaurant we went to and tried to speak Greek was so gracious that we were hooked up with raki. We felt special and even got some dirty looks from Russian tourists as a result. And there were a lot of Russian tourists (in that area of Crete only).
Another popular Greece liquor is Ouzo, which is not that popular in Crete, where raki remains dominant. Although we didn’t try ouzo on this trip, we did on another. Ouzo is a popular Greek liquor that taste like liquorice. Ouzo is sometimes homemade too.
After lunch we walked around and went from shop to shop, of which they were abundant. Something that made me laugh was my clothing size. I was a medium to large in clothing size in the United States, but in Greece I was a XXXXL. I saw some Grecian-styled chiffon dresses that were beautiful, but the only problem was none would fit me. I was too big. I noticed most women in Crete were tall and thin. I was short with minor curves and very well endowed. So, the only thing clothing-wise I bought that trip was a sleeveless top, and a bathing suit – of which I had only one choice and it lasted only two wears.
As we walked, we took pictures, like typical tourists tend to do. Our first bit of history began with visiting the Ekklisia Agia Paraskevi and Agios Nikolaos Orthodox Churches. Both churches were closed to public. We could still take pictures of the outside though and we did just that. They were unlike the Orthodox Churches in the United States. Most Orthodox Churches in Crete were painted hues of beige, white or red.
We went back to our hotel and learned that they cleaned the room daily. There is no such thing as “do not disturb.” Which was a downside. We at least locked up our belongings beforehand. Which was a good idea as these maids were shifty. (Needless to say, this hotel got a bad review for cleanliness – which it was not.)
For dinner, we went to another seaside restaurant. While dinning outside, my fiancé noticed a cat sitting tamely behind me. I turned to see the stray cat staring at me. Stray cats run rampant around the island. Farmers initially brought cats over to help keep smaller critters like rats, ground hogs and squirrels out of their gardens. This worked too well. There are no rats, squirrels or ground hogs on the island, but there are bats and skunks still.
Iraklis was our driver. He was a bearded Greek man who was filled with cheer. He loved being a bus driver, even though on our trip, he played our private chauffer. Just like Ioannis, his English was really good. We were able to have in depth conversations about Crete. One thing he said was, “Crete is like its own continent. It has everything, we do not need to import or export anything. We want not. We have. You will see.” It made me think of how the Minoans could have traded, when they did not need to, if what Iraklis said was true – Crete was self-reliant.
We drove pass hundreds of mountain goats (black, grey, brown and white) grazing steep hillsides and lounging around. There are thousands of goats, stray cats and stray dogs on the island. I noticed stray cats and wild mountain goats every day we ventured outside of Chersonisas. My fiancé and I are not only history buffs, but archaeology buffs. So of course, on our second day in Crete, the home of the Minoans, we ventured over to the Palace of Knossos.
The first thing that stood out to me was the lack of fortification walls – there were none. Even the Roman and Venetian ruins on Crete had fortifications walls. Which made me wonder if the Minoans had any enemies before the Myceneans invaded around 1450-1350 BCE.
I learned there is a labyrinth of corridors beneath the city that has collapsed in on its self and parts have been filled it with dirt. It is not allowed to be entered by the public and even archaeologist have struggled to dig up parts of it. It is thought that if archaeologists start digging up the labyrinth beneath the city, parts of the palace might give way and collapse in on itself, destroying the site. Personally, it reminds me of the story of the Minotaur, where the creature was imprisoned in a labyrinth and fed on human flesh until the hero, Theseus slew him.
Knossos is one of three major palaces on Crete, which I will speak of the other two later that were ruled by the three sons of Europa. King Minos ruled Knossos. His brothers ruled Phaistos Palace and the Palace of Malia. I will discuss the other two palaces later. Knossos was a great glimpse into what a redistribution city looked like though. On that note, I guess it’s safe to mention that many Minoan stories passed down are considered myth, but there is some truth to them to.
Our next stop was at St. Constantine’s Cemetery, Church and Burial Museum. Since I had been writing a book on death rites, Ioannis thought this was a good place for me to visit. He directed Iraklis to drive us there. As we walked through the cemetery, where the museum sits in the midst of, I couldn’t help but notice all the headstones and sarcophagi were facing the same way. In the museum I learned that it was the crosses on the graves were facing east. The cross must always face east towards the rising sun, meanwhile the head of the dead faces west, towards the dying sun. George, another driver I will soon discuss, told me the head of the bed cannot face west, as it was considered an omen of death.
Colors are important in Greek culture too. In ancient Greek, white was worn for funerals. White represented the lack of color in the skin of the dead. Black is the color worn at funerals nowadays. Black represents the color of decay and livor mortis (the stage after rigor mortis). Modern Greek Orthodox Christians wear black when widowed. Widows wear black after their spouse dies for at least a year. Usually for the rest of their lives, unless they remarry. Typically, widows 50-years of age and older, wear black until the day they die.
Ioannis met us at the cemetery for a few minutes to see if it was to my liking and if it would help me with writing my book. I told him “absolutely, efkharisto.” He replied, “parakalo” which also means “you’re welcome.”
When we got back into the white van, Iraklis asked us where we would like to eat. I told him any place that can make a good gyro. I kept pronouncing it “guy-ro” and he corrected me, “err-oh.” He took us to a place he likes called, Yasouvlaki. We ate pork gyros in the heart of Heraklion. Unlike the United States where lamb is used for gyros, pork is favored across Greece.
As we ate, Iraklis humored us in learning some Greek words. “Olakala” (okay) was a commonly heard word. He said, “Everyone knows it.” Then there was, “kalinite” (good evening), “kalispera” (good day, afternoon), “kalimera” (good morning), and “yia su” (hi). My fiancé and I favored one word in particular, because it was dirty. “Malacka,” which I heard a few times during our trip (not directed at us luckily), means “asshole.” It is slang.
When it came to asking why do Cretans do what they do on a daily basis, it came down to the phrase “for love and hunger.” “Another quote we say a lot here is, When they feed you, you stay. When they beat you, you go.” He laughed, but his laugh was reassuring that it was the truth. His favorite quote was, “Food brings people together, without it, people are divided.”
We meet up with Ioannis after lunch to discuss finances about the cost of the trip and our schedule at a place called the Biscotto Café. It was a tea and expresso shop with pastries. It was a mom-and-pop kind of place, like most places in Crete were. It became a place that we would visit every time we returned to Heraklion.
On our way back to the hotel, Iraklis drove us to a scenic seaside view where we were in the midst of WWII military barrack ruins. The gypsies lived in the ruins of the barracks, even though the government, years before, had given them millions of dollars to form their own communities and invest back into the economy – an equal exchange for them to rebuild their lives and no longer be nomadic people. Gypsies chose to live in poverty here and continue to be nomadic people. They are heavily disliked for this and for the fact of their religious beliefs. They are not Christians, but wear the cross. This infuriates most Greek Orthodox Christians, which is nearly 98% of the Greek population. At the barracks there was a school which could have been mistaken as a anything else. It didn’t resemble what schools look like in the United States. It was plain white with a crumbling roof. The Greek officers used to live in nice houses on the base, but after WWII the based was left to rot.
Off the coast, my fiancé spotted an island in a curious shape. Iraklis had us guess what it looked like. Neither of us got it right, but after Iraklis clarified “It is the Island of the Sleeping Dragon,” we could see the sleeping dragon. It was clear as day, but we didn’t realize it at first. It was as if a dragon decided to fall asleep on the calm water of the Mediterranean Sea.
A quite different Ioannis, or Silent Ioannis, drove us around and could barely speak English. It was the quietest ride we had experienced on this trip. He drove us to the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion. In the museum I found it fascinating that there were so many tubs, or larnakes, when you walk into the museum. The larnakes were what Minoans and ancient Greeks were entombed in when buried. Today, coffins are used, but essentially larnakes are clay coffins in the shape of tubs.
Down the road from the museum Silent Ioannis pointed us to a great place where we could get fresh fish. We ate freshly caught fish (from that morning) at “Some Wine” Restaurant. It was a few blocks from the museum. It was new for me to have to pick a fish apart and pull the meat off the bones in order to eat it. Most restaurants in the United States served fish cooked without skin and bones. I couldn’t help but look at the dead, glazed-over eyes of the fish. Poor guy, but a woman has to eat.
Silent Ioannis picked us up after and drove us to the Natural History Museum of Heraklion, and then the History Museum of Crete. The Natural History Museum pertained only to the natural geology, geography, flora and fauna of the Island of Crete. The History Museum of Crete was a surprise to us though. It focused on Cretan folk culture, merchant history and Orthodox Christianity in Crete. We didn’t know what to expect from this museum when we first walked in, but it was a nice cultural anthropological trip for sure.
That evening we at Skippers and my fiancé had his first taste of Baklava. Baklava is a traditional dessert pastry made with almonds and in some cases honey. It is exquisite and it makes you salivate an ungodly amount the moment you smell it. Writing about it, I salivate.
One of the drivers we met was named George. He drove part-time for Travel Crete. George was a Marine Biologist, born and raised in Crete. As we drove one day pass some mountains, he remembered the permafrost mountains were three times larger, but have melted severely due to climate change. “It is a real issue,” he said, referring to climate change. Lifka Orri, the white mountains, are permafrost riddled on their peaks. But Mt. Siloras is the highest mountain on the island. Solar powered wind mills are present at the top of many mountains too. 15% of Crete is solar powered. 15% is wind powered as well. There is no nuclear power plant either. These were all fun facts I picked up from George.
I asked, “How often does it rain in Crete.” George was puzzled at first. Then I reworded it to, “Does it rain here?” He responded that it rarely rains in Crete, maybe 2-5 times a year. It rains so rarely that there is no expression like “it’s raining ropes” or “it’s raining cats and dogs.”
A thick cloud of fog began to shroud us as we drove through the Municipality of Lassithi Plateau. At the top of plateau, abandoned granaries, from centuries ago, sat looming over the cliff. I took a quick glance over the edge to see how far down it went. It could have been a million miles; the fog was so thick we could not see that far down. It was just a white cloud below us. It reminded me of the horror movie, “Silent Hill.” In the movie, in order to get to this little town called Silent Hill, you had to drive through a thick fog.
When we got out of the foggy terrain, we stopped at a monastery. The Panayia Kera Monastery was open to the public. However, I was limited in accessing such a site. In some churches, women are only allowed entrance when wearing a skirt or dress. If a woman is wearing pants, she may not enter. Such is the case with the Monastery of Panayia Kera in Lassithi.
The scenic cliff view and the monastery were two short stops on our way to the Cave of Zeus, also known as Dikiteon Cave. It is said to be the place were the Olympian god Zeus was born and raised in secrecy, away from his power-hunger father. As we hiked up the steep hillside, we couldn’t help but notice the trail was much harder and longer without the new stone walkway. You can choose to hike up the nature trail or take the man-made path. We took the man-made path, it was faster and more direct, and we were feeling sore by the time we got to the top of the mountain where the gaping mouth of the cave waited for us. My fiancé and I looked at each other. “We are so out of shape,” I said. I have a knee injury too and boy, was I pressing through that pain. (You know, for the love of Crete.)
Artifacts of idol worship have been found in this cave from ancient Minoan to classical Greek. As you descend down the wet stairwell into the stalactite riddle cave, you can’t help but feel like you are descending into the Underworld itself. Up until a few years ago it was a treacherous climb to get up to the cave, let alone inside. The lights set up inside the cave illuminated a greenish-grey color to the room. It was eerie and you had to whisper. To speak normally felt like you might awaken a monster or something. We went bright and early as it first opened. It felt like we had the cave to ourselves, only one other couple was there.
Our hike downhill was way easier and faster, but we ran into hordes of tourist on donkeys riding up the hill. We were fortunate for the time we went as we beat the crowds. When we got back to George, we picked up some freshly squeezed orange juice. The sweetest orange juice I had ever had. It became one of my favorite drinks. Almost everywhere you went there were machines for producing freshly squeezed orange juice.
After we left the Cave of Zeus, we headed to one of George’s favorite places, Lasinthos Eco Zoo Park. It is an animal protection farm, where deer, once sacred to the goddess Artemis, and horses are kept in pens. Wild herbs are grown like Dittany, Lemon Grass and Rosemary here. There was a store on the premises where I bought an assortment of wine, olive pastes and olive oils. These were things that every Greek had to have in their house. These were things that I had to have in my house too. I now know my kitchen is incomplete without them.
Across the valley, where Eco Zoo Park sat, was a church. So, we visited the churchyard in Lasinthos called Agios Georges. A priest was entombed with a large cross on his sarcophagus lid. It was common for priests to be buried with such, again, with the cross facing east. Many sarcophagi, just like at St. Constantine had a stone box with glass or plexi-glass doors on it, which housed objects of the dead, offerings and a picture of the deceased. George told us that the birthdays of the dead was celebrated too. Birthdays were not just for the living. It reminded me of how we are supposed to celebrate George Washington’s birthday every year on February 22 in the United States. (But instead people go sale hunting at stores.)
We met up with Ioannis and Akrivi at the Taverna Krassopyxia in Krasi. There, for the first time, my fiancé tried snails. It was not to his liking. George laughed as he saw the expression that fell across my fiancé’s face. I was not a big fan either, but when someone else is paying for my meal, I try not to insult the host. But we did learn about tzatziki sauce which is a cold yogurt-based cucumber sauce used for dipping just about anything in. I made sure to buy a cookbook before leaving Crete, just for that recipe specifically. (I would go on to use many recipes.)
Ioannis was given free reigns on what to sightsee one day. He first drove us to the Nikos Kazantzankis Museum. Nikos Kazantzankis, who the airport in Heraklion is named after, was a famed writer from Crete. He wrote the novel, “Zorba the Greek.” Cretans adore him and celebrate his legacy. Ioannis was gleeful to show us his heritage and cultural significances within it. Murals covered some of the walls at a parking area reflecting a love for Nikos Kazantzankis.
As we left, we stopped at the Church of Metamorphosis Sotiros. It was huddled between houses and buildings on a narrow one-way street. We would have stayed longer to take pictures, but traffic was backing up behind us. Greek drivers are just as impatient as us New York drivers.
Ioannis hooked us up with a discount on a wine tasting that day. It was nice because neither my fiancé or I had ever been to a wine tasting. We went to the Lyrarakis Winery. My favorite wine is called “Dafni.” It is a somewhat sweet, white wine. In the same breath, my favorite wine is still Moscato too. I suppose I can have two favorites. After the wine tasting, Ioannis ate with us at Bakaliko, a small and cozy purple roomed café.
He then took us to visit the Venetian Wall in downtown Heraklion. At the wall, which stood proudly over the city, we took in an excellent city view. It is also where the grave of Nikos Kazantzaki and his wife are located. It is a nice area. I thought it was interesting, how in this busy and congested city, besides the two graves there are two football-FC fields. As we drove around downtown Heraklion, we noticed there was a heavy Venetian influence, to include a Venetian harbor. We event went to see the Church of San Pedro Dominican which had dozens of mosaics on display of Orthodox Christian scenes. We are not by any means Christian, but we do appreciate religious art. There is so much that can be learned from it, like humility, morals and a story itself.
An hour and half van ride took us from the Heraklion region to the Rethymno region. George drove us to the Monastery of Arkadi. The monastery is still active, but open to the public. We saw a few priests walking around while we were doing our best to stay respectful. They had a museum on the premise, a gift shop and other delights for the eyes. Just as there are stray cats, there are wild dogs on the island that are fed and cared for by the locals. At the Monastery of Arkadi I saw three stray dogs, a herd of sheep and several cats. I also made sure to get some fresh orange juice here.
I quickly learned, that each region’s capital city was name after the region it was located in. Rethymno was lush and green, forests galore. I really wasn’t expecting it from Crete at all. It was a hiker’s dream. Too bad I wasn’t a hiker anymore. In downtown Rethymno, we walked around and even visited an abandoned mosque back from the days of the Ottoman Turks. We spent a little time in Rethymno and ate lunch there.
Then we returned to Heraklion for a free city walk, which was led by Akrivi. Ioannis’s company is the only company that offers a free city tour in all of Crete. We saw a few churches and hung around the Lions Fountain for a few moments. The Lions were a popular place where friends would meet to grab something to eat together. On another trip to Crete, my fiancé and I met Iraklis here to go get gyros at a local place.
Akrivi walked us pass a Venetian Loggia and a Turkish Fountain, which I found historically delightful. The tour ended with her taking us into Liberty Center. People eating ice cream and slurping on Gregory’s iced drinks were out in full force. (Gregory’s is equivalent to a Starbucks). Liberty Center was also a meeting place, but it was a business district. I noticed local workers would go here to eat lunch.
The tour was a small one. It consisted of my fiancé, a Swedish man, Akrivi and myself. Even though the tour was free, we still tipped Akrivi, as is what you’re supposed to do. Yes, you do tip tour guides. I haven’t seen tipping tour guides much in the United States, but across Europe, it is the general consensus to tip tour guides.
We got up early every day we were in Crete, but more in particular on one day. Akrivi and Ioannis drove us to see the sunrise at Elounda around six in the morning. The lavenders and yellows cascaded across the sky. The air smelt cleaner there.
Akrivi throughout the day would practice her English language with us and give us a tour every place we went. We were not big on tours, but Akrivi is a very knowledgeable tour guide. First we walked around the town of Agios Nicolaos. (“Agios” means saint.)
My fiancé and our guides, Ioannis and Akrivi, walked into one church in the heart of the downtown and before I could take a picture, I learned something. No photography is allowed inside most sacred Orthodox Christian places during ceremonial services. Ironically, my fiancé was taking video and he wasn’t stopped, but it is a patriarchal society, so I’m sure being a woman had something to do with it. I digress. Orthodox Churches are shrouded in frescos, not statues like in the Catholic Church. This is a major difference between the two sects of Christianity. It was a new discovery to my fiancé and I though.
In the frescos I noticed a skull that appears throughout the art work. Akrivi explained the skull was a representation of Adam, the first human born of God. It is Adam’s skull that appears throughout to remind people who is responsible for making us “mortal.” Another thing we were taught was that all churches have the alpha and omega Greek letters in the front doorway, and that again, all crosses face east.
After we ate a light breakfast, we headed to Spinalonga Island Fortress. Spinalonga is a small island within an inlet to Elounda. While waiting for the boat to ferry us over, I noticed the submerged ancient harbor through the clear azure water. I could see an ancient stone dock where circular niches were carved into them. I wasn’t sure what the niches were for, but they were interesting to note. As we took the boat to the island, I noticed ancient trenches beneath the water. Or, perhaps they were ancient breaker walls. There was no real way for me to tell and Akrivi wasn’t sure either. Her guess was as good as mine.
Once we were ferried across to Spinalonga Island Fortress, I realized I was in a place that had been abandoned only a few decades prior. It had been used as a leper colony until the early 1970s. Spinalonga has an unsettled foundation as three earthquakes have taken their toll on some of the structures, but not all. Some of the houses on the island had their roofs fall in on them. It used to be a leper colony until the early 1970s. Of all the places we visited, this was the clearest blue the water had been.
Before we left, I couldn’t help but notice a church that we had passed on our way to Agios Nicolaos. We made a pit stop to visit the Panaghia Kera Church, in a village just outside of the city Agios Nicolaos. There were frescos of hellfire, snakes consuming sinners and other horrific scenes on the walls. There were also frescos of saints standing tall and proud, just like in every church I walked into. There, in the corner of a fresco was the skull of Adam.
We drove by, and ended up stopping at the Statue of Europa sitting on top of a bull. Europa was the mother of the kings Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Sarpedon who was abducted by Zeus disguised as an albino bull with blue eyes. I first learned about Europa when I read the book, “Mythology” by Edith Hamilton, back in sixth grade. I’m not sure what type of metal the statue is made of, but it has a blue tint to it, but that could be from the water reflecting off it.
The last place we visited that day was the brother palace of Knossos, the Palace of Malia. The Palace of Malia was ruled by King Sarpedon. It was the smallest of the three palaces we would visit. It was right off the water and not much of it was standing. There were spots on the sight that had been dug up, going down a few meters deep. It made me think, people were definitely shorter than. Like I said, I’m short, but even I would have bumped my head in some of the corridors.
Since George was a Marine Biologist and loved the water, it only made sense that he should be the one to take us out that day. He took us to Mirtos Beach in southern Crete. The beach was lined with Roman Empire ruins that the Greeks seemed to literally build over. The beach was riddled with broken shells and a course dark sand. We placed our towels under a tamarisk tree on the beach. After two hours of tanning, we ate at a restaurant on the water, as was becoming the tradition for this trip.
On our way back towards Chersonisas, where our hotel was, we stopped by a monument from WWII in Viannas. One Cretan men stood up against the invading Nazi regime. He, and his people, 230 Cretans were slaughtered for doing so. Their names are listed there.
George took us to the Creta Aquarium next, which was his day job. I loved an aquarium trip. It was nice to see local Mediterranean marine life. George had to get something from his office, hence the pit-stop. My fiancé and I didn’t mind at all – we got free entrance. Our favorite part of that day was being able to experience up-close an endangered species, the Loggerhead Sea Turtle that had living crustaceans on the back of his shell. The Creta Aquarium protects endangered Mediterranean Sea life to include plant-life, algae, minnows, stingrays and sharks. (That’s not a complete list though.)
The Creta Aquarium doubles as a university training facility for marine based scientists and as a sea life rescue. While driving to it, George was behind the wheel and accidentally ran over a snake. He began to cuss in Greek, but “malacka” was the only word we understood. It truly upset him that he had just ran over a snake. I would not have blinked, but I’m not a fan of snakes. George, on the other hand, was a huge animal activist and lover.
I think the funniest part of the entire trip happened here. George took us to the roof top where there were several aquarium tank units. Each lot had sliding wooden panels on them that inside lead to a walkway over each aquarium. My fiancé followed George inside on the aquariums walking over the rickety metal walkway. I knew what it was before I even stepped foot inside.
“I’m not going in there.” George smiled and waved for me to come in. “They won’t hurt you. I will dive in, if you fall in.” he joked. My fiancé still had no idea what tank he was standing over. He leaned over to look at the blue water. “Don’t do that!” I yelled with my heart in my throat. George motioned for us to leave, still laughing. My fiancé looked at me. “That was a big tank.” I shot him a dead-straight glare. “Babe, you know that was a shark tank, right?” He was shocked. He never dreamed he would be standing above a shark tank.
Southwest in the Heraklion Region, Iraklis drove us passed the Stones of God from when God was born. These are massive, smooth surface, oval-shaped stones that can be seen from miles away. The smallest of the three would be equal in size to a fire-ant on top of a quarter. We were bound for Gortyns.
Just off the EO Irakliou Faistou, a main roadway in the Gortyn Municipality, there are rests the archaeological site of Gortyna. Gortyna is an ancient site that dates back to ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. It was small, but on the mountain sides beside it, there were Roman fortifications. It made the site more spread out than it appeared. But it wasn’t the only highlight of the day.
With Iraklis, we always knew we could eat well. Iraklis called a friend, told him where we were and asked for a good place to eat. His friend hooked us up with a local taverna in Mires. Everything was fresh and the menu was orally told to you, based on what the daily catch was. I had rabbit, while my fiancé had goat. Both were tender and fell off the bone. It was a meat-eaters dream. They were saturated in creamy sauces too. The rabbit was covered in a white sauce, while the goat was covered in a brown sauce.
After we filled up, my fiancé and I could have used a nap, but carried on with our busiest day yet. We went to Aghia Triada, located in Timpaki. Aghia Triada was the second home to King Rhadamanthys. There is an Orthodox Church that had been built on the site somewhere during the Middle Ages. As I stood where the King’s portico used to be, I noticed the intense view of the mountains and the rolling hills with a valley below it. A village sat in the center of the valley hugged between those luscious green hills.
What captured my gaze were the clouds in the distance rolling in and quickly shrouded the mountains in the distance with their bluish drape. It was as if the Anemoi, or the Greek wind gods, were making their presence known. It was gone just as fast as they rolled up. It was the most ethereal moment of our travel to me.
Just six minutes away, down an unnamed road is Phaistos Palace. Phaistos Palace was ruled by King Minos’s brother, King Rhadamanthys. This was his first home. There is a grand stairwell that was maybe the most elaborate of the three major palaces on Crete. It could have functioned as theatre seats, but there is no evidence to support this as of yet. Though I’m bold to declare, I bet that they held multiple purposes and were not just stairs.
We later on stopped at a scenic café, Gregory’s, which I mentioned before. (Gregory’s is a Greek franchise.) My fiancé and I tasted cheese pie pastries for the first time and had choco frozito drinks. Choco frozito is a drink where chocolate milk and ice are blended together as a slushie-like beverage. It tastes amazing. My mouth waters writing about it. The cheese pies make my mouth water too. Crete has some of the best food in the world to my bias opinion. Cheese pies, made with gruyere cheese, are the most popular snack pastry in all of Greece though. But, only on Crete will you find it excels in taste.
Ioannis drove us pass the Lifka Orri. Goats grazed the side of the mountain and I couldn’t help but think of the Satyr from mythology, Pan, playing his flute as his half-goat body danced to the melody. I was waiting for a goat to rise to a bi-pedal state and start playing a seven-pipe flute. Needless to say, later that day I bought a seven-pipe flute for myself.
Before lunch, and on our way to Chania, we stopped by Souda WWII Cemetery. As a veteran of the United States Air Force, I wanted to see one of Crete’s veterans’ cemetery. Souda WWII Cemetery houses the dead soldiers from Australia, America, Germany, Austria, Italy and of course, Greece. That was almost enough death for one trip. We still had one more death-related stop.
In the village of Akrotiri in the Chania Region, Eleftherios Venizelos’s tomb can be found, along with his brother’s tomb. Eleftherios Venizelos was the man who united Crete with Greece. He is a celebrated figure across Greece. I made sure to snap a picture of his gravesite.
Ioannis took us to downtown Chania where we met up with the lovely Akrivi. We walked around the Akti Tompazi and the Akti Kountourioti which smelled of clean ocean air and we acknowledged the Venetian influences. This included walking up to the gates of the beige-walled Firka Fortress in the Old Venetian Harbour. There is even a historical landmark mosque, the Mosque of Kioutsouk. Beside it lies the only active mosque in Crete, the Mosque of the Janissaries.
Chania also has abandoned buildings galore. Since Chania is the most expensive region on Crete, it only makes sense that there are more abandoned buildings due to the lack of affordability. Chania is the most expensive place to live in the whole of Crete.
The day finally came when it was time to leave Crete and head home – a twenty-one flight. Ioannis took us around Heraklion one more time. He left us to walk around for a while. We had tea at Biscotto Café and met back up with him there, after he had to take care of some business. Iraklis was right, Crete was like its own continent – and I still haven’t seen everything that makes it such. People were living off the land and the sea, without the need of outside influence.
What I learned from my travels was that Cretan’s breed happiness. By making friends, I learned the importance of happiness and virtue. Cretans seem to follow Aristotle’s ethics about virtue and happiness. All human beings strive for happiness which Aristotle defines in the Nicomachean Ethics as an infinite and universal truth that resides on the highest level of human ethics. Virtue can be accessed by the happiness in the things we do and by the life we lead. Cretans, regardless of the economically struggling Greece, are positive minded for the most part and don’t let anything stand in the way of their happiness, their virtue. It had been a very insightful journey.
Nowhere to Run
MarieAnn C. Raguso
Alice was stopped in her tracks. She knew why Paul was there. He wasn’t much of a stalker or a runner, but he was her partner and concerned about her like a brother to a sister. The humidity sprayed them both with a glow of sweat.
“How did you know I would be here?” She grasped her water bottle and took a sip. Beads of sweat cascaded down her face. She ran with her Glock in a special elastic pocket on her Under Armour shirt.
Alice realized he wasn’t as sweaty as she was, though he was wearing running gear. He must have either just arrived, walked the trail or, maybe, he was following her after all. She felt suspicion set in about why exactly he chose to take that particular hiking trail, when there were several others in the immediate area. She knew Paul’s motives were genuine.
“You always come here for a run after work.” Paul said, “I just got here. Figured I’d go for a run. Maybe we discuss what’s going on with your ex.”
He had learned something about her ex-boyfriend, Malcolm, and wanted to make sure that Alice knew it too. Paul had evidence sitting on his desk that could incriminate her, if she didn’t convince him otherwise.
“There’s nothing to say about Malcolm. I haven’t seen him in such a long time. He could be dead for all I know.” Alice huffed a bit under her breath. She wasn’t ready to talk about Malcolm with Paul. He knew it too.
Paul looked around him, throwing his hands in the air. They fell down to his sides and he chuckled. Paul acted surprised to see her and questioned her about the paranoia. They were alone in the wilderness, or so they thought.
“I didn’t know you have a special interest in me Paul.”
“Yes, well. That happens when you’re stuck in a squad car with someone every day for two years.”
“So you wanted to talk about Malcolm? Is that what brought you out here?” Alice questioned his motives once more. Though, she was pretty sure he was genuine.
“Yes – but if you’re not ready to talk, that’s okay. I’m here to run too. I need to pass my next physical.” Paul paused for a moment and looked at her inquisitive expression, as if she was trying to read his mind. “Why are you so suspicious? You know me. Hello – it’s Paul paging Alice. Officer Malloy, why are you so on edge?”
Alice’s eyes narrowed behind him. Paul fell to the ground. A man wearing a black hoodie and a black mask, carrying a baseball bat had hit him over the head, knocking him unconscious. Alice’s eyes widened.
Instead of fear, Alice’s face was shrouded with concern as she confronted the man in the mask and hoodie. She knew it had to be Malcolm.
The masked man paused and lifted the baseball bat, placing it over his shoulder. She made it clear she wasn’t scared of him. Part of her was terrified for Paul though. She did her damnedest not to show it.
“Yeah. It’s me. Surprised you didn’t see me coming.” Malcolm paused and lifted the bat, placing over his shoulder. “Why aren’t you running?”
Malcolm pulled his mask and hoodie off and acted nonchalantly. He laughed when she told him she knew it was him the whole time. She looked at Paul laying on the ground, out-cold. Alice didn’t have enough time to warn Paul, but at least he was still breathing.
“I’m not scared of you, Malcolm!” Part of her was scared for Paul though. Paul had been her squad car buddy for nearly a year now. He became her new police partner after Malcolm had killed the last one out of jealousy when Alice broke up with him.
There was concern and fear for his life inside of her. On the outside, she couldn’t react to the feeling. Any micromotion on her face would revealed that she cared for Paul, which would lead to his imminent death.
“I know you’ve been following me. Paul is just my partner – my co-worker. Not my lover. Why are you here?”
“Because he wanted to talk me. Listen Malcolm, he knows about you – but you cannot kill him.” Malcolm looked shocked. His voice became vulgar when she looked down at Paul. Then asked, “How does he know about me?”
She placed her hands on her hip. “How do you think? Hmm?” Her posture reaffirmed that Paul was just her partner and nothing more. Malcolm was having a hard time buying it. This was his way of warning Paul, but more so of warning Alice.
He shook his head and ran over to the stream beside them. The hiking trail was beautifully shaded and the white-rapids raced beside the trail. He tossed the bat into the river. He watched as the bat disappeared down the rapids, then stared into the stream. Malcolm knew he had to get rid of the evidence, just in case other hikers or runners appeared on the trail. He was fortunate that Alice chose the trail for its seclusion and lack of attraction.
“To get rid of the evidence.”
“Look Malcolm. You can’t come around and kill every man I get close to –”
“Close? Like how close were you to this man?”
Alice huffed. “Come on, babe. You know what I meant.”
Malcolm turned to face her. He smiled and winked his left eye. It was as if he was warning her that he had the all-seeing-eye. It was an arcane gypsy’s legend that the evil eye could see everything, everyone and at all times. “I don’t think I do… babe.”
Alice shook her head at Malcolm. “Malcolm. He knows you’re a serial killer.” He walked back over to her and crept up to her face, only inches away from her lips. Alice feared he would kiss her. His kisses were savage and always drew blood like a vampire. “You fucked up. You left a drop of blood at your last crime scene. I guess you shouldn’t have killed my informant.”
He tightly grabbed her arms, forcing them to fall to her sides. He wielded complete control over her, before letting her arms go. He grinned wildly – a madman. Alice remembered her Glock was tucked away in her Under Armour top, but knew she couldn’t kill Malcolm without incriminating herself for knowingly associating with a notorious serial killer.
“I thought you two were fucking around. Guess I was wrong!”
“You are wrong. Paul knows.”
“So, I’ll kill Paul.” He shrugged as if murder was like a walk in the park.
“No, Malcolm. He already posted that you were a suspect. If you kill him, the chief will know and will hunt you down.”
Malcolm turned away again, crisscrossing his arms and still grinning. He wasn’t pleased with her request to refrain from “killing” for a while. “Laying low” was the cowards way – or so he liked to think.
A large branch lay behind Alice in the brush. Malcolm began to whistle as he went over, picked it up, and casually strolled back to Paul. It was as if he was taking pleasure in planting artificial evidence. He took the somewhat heavy branch and spoke to himself, analyzing where it would fall if he had been whacked by it. Then, placed it by Paul’s right back side.
“So, what are you trying to tell me?” Malcolm seemed perplex, but excitable. If it wasn’t for Alice’s calm, sweet talking voice, Paul may have been killed.
“Please. Lay low. For me.”
Paul began to stir and loudly groaned. Malcolm put his mask and hoodie back on. “You win for now.”
He turned away for just a moment, then turned back to look Alice in the eyes, and held one finger to where her lips. Then, he ran off, vanishing like a deer into the woods.
Alice waited until Malcolm was out of view, then hurried to help Paul. He motioned for her arm.
“Paul, Paul. Are you okay?”
She helped him to sit up and asked him how he felt. Again, she asked, “Are you okay?”
Paul rubbed his head. Surprisingly, he wasn’t bleeding. He looked around for the culprit, but only found the large branch. Alice realized why Malcolm had positioned the large branch by Paul’s right back side.
“A branch hit your head.”
Paul looked over at the branch. “Geez. I could’ve been killed!”
“Yes, you could have. But you’re safe.” She kissed his head, where it had been hit.
“Ouch.” He cried as she helped him to his feet. “For a second there, I thought you tried to kill me.”
They looked at each other. Alice had a straight face. Paul began to laugh. “How silly.”
He felt lucky that a “branch” hadn’t killed him. Alice helped him to stand up. The two agreed, the hospital was the way to go – she would drive. All the while, he continued to rub his head. She cautiously carried him to her car, his arm over her shoulder. The pain was strong. He made a joke about it – about how unhealthy it was to be out for a run on such a humid day.
Alice smiled at Paul, who smiled back at her. Their smiles faded as they walked down the hiking trail towards the parking lot. Her Glock, still untouched, was tucked firmly into her Under Armour shirt. Malcolm watched from behind a boulder, hidden from view as they got in her Ford Escape.
MarieAnn C. Raguso
Ciera was like a ballerina in a music box, always spinning when the lid was lifted and in view for the world to see. When the lid was closed and she was out of sight, she was the void of entertainment. She was shut-off from the world, except during those moments of expected spinning. Lael declared her to be what he wanted her to be. She existed as he perceived her to be. He never saw her as a stagnant figure. She was always spinning. No one knew or cared what she was like when she was out of sight. So, just like every music box, eventually the gears wear-out and the music stops playing, the ballerina stops spinning. Then, and only then, would people truly see who she was when she could no longer spin for Lael’s entertainment.
He stood in the doorway watching her. On the floor was a suitcase that had been thrown around and belongings tossed about. She had tried to leave, but to no avail. Lael was tall and bulky with dark penetrating eyes. He could pierce the darkness of the room with his eyes like a lion. Ciera was nothing like him. She didn’t even want to be near him.
The light shone into the dark room illuminating Ciera’s bright green eyes. She lay on the bed in a fetal position, silently crying. She was short and thin with her dyed-red hair spread wildly on the bed. Her back faced him. “I’m sorry…” he mumbled. Ciera didn’t care. The black eye cancelled out any apologies he had. “Come on babe.”
So many times, she had tried to walk out the door. A packed suitcase was the farthest she had ever gotten. It was his mother’s house, but that never stopped him from acting like the almighty king of the castle. A packed suitcase was just a visage though. He thought she was going to leave him and couldn’t have that. In some messed-up way he felt she could never find someone to love her as much as he could. He sat down on the bed behind her.
“Don’t come any closer!” Her congested voice spat out the words. Of course, Lael shrugged off her threats. What was a weak girl going to do to him? He thought. Lael didn’t know she was ready for battle this time. He sat on the bed. The bed was the void of sheets from the night before when he stabbed her in the arm with a shard from a beer bottle. The wound had stop bleeding, but the fresh scar was there. When he wasn’t drunk, he was just an asshole on his own.
Lael began to push on Ciera’s thigh. He even made a few kissy-noises. “Come on babe. You know you have to forgive me. I’m all you got.”
“Don’t – touch – me!” She vulgarly plead, “I’m warning you!” Again, he blew her off.
In one single motion, he grabbed her waist and rolled her towards him. The knife revealed itself, clutched between both of Ciera’s hands. Tears of rage emerged from her eyes and she let out a scream. His pupils dilated as she thrusted the knife into his throat, dragging it down, ripping his throat apart. It was the only way she could let him know it was over. The mattress, already bloody from the night before, was now sopping-wet with blood. His body fell limp over her.
She couldn’t believe how much blood gushed from his throat. Her mouth opened in horror, she pulled the knife out. His dead body fell on top of her. It was heavy and warm… so very, very warm. Her clothing mirrored the mattress – soaked in blood. She struggled for a moment to push him off of her. He was too heavy to move. She struggled for a moment thinking of how she could get out of this predicament. Her tears began to blend with the blood. It was everywhere – on her face, her hands, her body. For almost an hour she lay there before an idea hit her. She was no longer crying and found a sort of peace.
The front door to the house opened. A voice called from downstairs, “I’m home!” It was Lael’s mother. Ciera began to wiggle herself out from underneath his body. She was stuck.
She thought to herself, I cannot let her come up here. Then a thought occurred. She thought of mountain climbing. Since she was still holding the knife, she decided to use the knife like a grappling hook. Stabbing into the mattress, she was able to pull herself out from underneath Lael’s corpse. Each time she stabbed she couldn’t help but smirk. She was almost free. A few more inches.
“Anyone home? Lael? Ciera?” Lael’s mother called from the downstairs kitchen. She had been out all morning running errands.
“I’ll be down in a few moments.” She yelled down to Lael’s mother. Finally, Ciera was able to wiggle out completely. She crawled off the bed, stood up and dropped the knife to the ground. Ciera walked over to his body and grabbed the car keys out of his pocket.
“Is Lael up there with you?” his mother asked. Ciera turned to look at Lael’s lifeless body slumped over the bed with his legs hanging off. “No.” she said. She walked into the bathroom and took her blood-soaked cloths off, letting them fall to the ground with a wet thud. Ciera jumped into the shower and washed the blood off of her quickly. The white wash rag was colored crimson. The bar of soap even began to turn red. She washed until the soap was white again.
She got out of the shower a few moments later and dried herself off. She took a deep breath. In and out. A yellow dress lay over a chair in the bedroom. Ciera grabbed the dress and pulled it over her head. She found a pair of panties and put them on, then bent down to place all her belongings back inside her suitcase. An envelope with money and passport was placed back inside the suitcase. With a quick zip, the suitcase was closed and Ciera was in the doorway. She never looked back.
Down the stairs she went towards the front door. Lael’s mother stood there to greet her with a sour expression. “Where is Lael?”
“He’s gone.” Ciera said.
“Gone? Where has he gone to?”
Ciera smirked and walked out the front door.
“Where are you going Ciera?” Lael’s mother demanded as she followed Ciera onto the front porch. She was just as eager to control Ciera as Lael was, except without the physical force. Ciera didn’t answer. She walked down the porch steps and over to her car. Lael’s mother stood on the porch dumbfounded. “Answer me you whore!”
Ciera got into her car, adjusted the rear-view mirror and started the ignition. She wanted to do something cocky like give Lael’s mother the finger, but decided against it. Cocky wasn’t her style. Murder wasn’t her style either, but it was the only way she thought she could get away from an abusive relationship. A smile crossed her face as she backed out of the driveway.
The breeze from the opened car windows whisked her away. The morning air was calm and cool. It sent goosebumps down her spine. A smudge of blood colored her wrist. With one swipe of her tongue, she licked off, getting get rid of the evidence. She smiled and began to laugh madly as combed her wild red hair back with her hand. Ciera disappeared down the freeway never to be seen again.